KAMPALA – When Yoweri Museveni went to the bush, he brought with him security, a package that is said to have lacked in the previous governments. Many Ugandans especially those on the 4th Floor of their lives will agree with me that indeed peace has prevailed. Today, many will also confirm that there can never be peace without security but there can be peace without Museveni.
I also know as a person that there is no country with a water tight security system; once in a while, there will always be security lapses even in the so called first world countries just like it is in third world countries like Uganda. However, the developed countries have standardized their priorities and have not broken banks to live without threats on life and property.
In the aftermath of the shooting of General Katumba’s vehicle in which his daughter and driver were killed, President Yoweri Museveni took another un-precedent decision like he did with road cameras that a system be put in place to monitor the movement of vehicles, boats and motor cycles. Sometimes I wonder how things are done in this country; who said a thief or killer or a terrorist for that matter aware of the gadget in the vehicle or boda boda would use the same to commit a crime? Who said these gargets cannot be removed or disabled?
For reasons best known to the President, the Ugandan government has since signed a 10 year deal with Joint Stock Company Global Security, a Russian firm that will see the latter install tracking devices in all public and private vehicles and motorcycles in the country. I’m using the word deal because every transaction in this country involving government always has a sinister motive behind it and the beneficiaries of such deals are those who hold power.
Security Minister, Jim Muhwezi who witnessed the agreement on behalf of the Ugandan Government coded as “The intelligent transport monitoring system” was not shy to say the agreement will help deal with the security problem for the country. “It will provide government with a digital system that will monitor vehicles in the country. It will enable us use artificial intelligence to back up other measures in place to be able to provide the country with security,”
The deal according to the agreement will see the Russian company provide digital monitors to be fitted in all vehicles, bodabodas and boats. The Russian firm was approved by an inter-ministerial committee, involving line ministries such as security, internal affairs and transport that had been discussing the issue of digital tracking for about four months. These guys seem to have forgotten that their decision good as it may appear undermined procurement laws and usurped the powers of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) which is mandated with the authority to vet and verify the entity to undertake works on behalf of Government.
But when all is said and done, one thing is very visible for those who have eyes accompanied with common sense. I want Ugandans to recall that some years ago a certain company called SGS Uganda Ltd was awarded a responsibility to inspect all vehicles to determine those in dangerous mechanical conditions and those that are roadworthy. The public made noise followed by a voice of our barking dogs- the MPs. It is said that SGS is a reputable international company that specializes in inspection, verification, testing and certification of automobiles.
Certainly, whoever brought these SGS people to Uganda or whoever hid himself behind SGS did not do his homework well. For the many years they have been in Uganda, they have not inspected more than 200 vehicles and it’s possible that they have been hurting despite constructing many inspection points on many entry points into and outside Kampala. This time round I don’t think these guys did their home work well and who knows, maybe they stepped on the toes of mafias who blocked the plan from being implemented.
One can clearly tell that SGS injected a lot of money in their speculation but have not yielded any penny and to me, this is their chance, to use the Vehicle Digital Monitors project to propel their agenda by providing premises for the installation in form of a joint venture. I will not be surprised to discover that the two entities are one and the same camouflaged under different names. Since SGS already has premises, we are going to find ourselves paying for “The intelligent transport monitoring system” and inspection of the vehicles by SGS to determine their roadworthiness. However there is no law to support their imaginations but knowing how greedy our MPs are, it’s probable that somebody is crafting a law that will be passed without any hurdles.
Let Ugandans not forget that the digital trackers will be mandatory for vehicles as government moves to deal with crime committed by hit and run idiots as the President prefers to call them. Museveni had previously emphasized the need to expedite this crime prevention measure, asking the respective offices to see that it is implemented. Joint Stock Global Systems undertook to get back the money they would have invested in the project and an agreed upon return on investment in two years upon which the project will be left for Government to manage.
Sadly, it is said the handpicked company- Joint Stock Company Global Security is heavily indebted and may not have the capacity to guarantee privacy for the many Ugandans who will surrender their confidential information only to be abused. It reminded me of an investor who was given a contract to construct a hi-tech hospital in Lubowa only to learn that he did not have any money to even buy a bag of cement but was called an Investor. To Ugandans, anything in a white skin can qualify to be an investor and can get any contract any time without difficulties.
Out of shame, government gave him free land and even guaranteed the borrowing of money for the contractor to commence works and it appears we have not learnt anything from these mistakes that keep arising from time to time. It is possible that the President was given wrong information by his handlers without proper due diligence on Joint Stock Company Global Security and sadly, it is not the first time Uganda is making this blunder.
Not so long ago, a group of Ugandans were involved in a scandal regarding the Mukono–Kyetume–Katosi–Nyenga Road contracted to a company that was nonexistent. Abraham Byandala is said to have pushed through a deal in favour of Eutaw under very questionable circumstances even before proper procurement procedures could be carried out. At the commissioning of the road, Senketo, the self-declared Eutaw Country Manager was nowhere to be seen. And so are the other directors of Eutaw. It is apparent that it was a desk top company with a desk top contract procured through blind folding the President and I fear history could repeat itself.
The biggest embarrassment about this contract was when it was discovered that the winner of the bid Eutaw Construction Limited was not the one constructing the road but Chongqing International Construction Corporation which had actually participated in the bidding process but lost to Eutaw due to influence peddling. It is apparent that somebody had pushed through this company without carrying out due diligence as required by law.
Chongqing International Construction Corporation despite its reputation in constructing good roads was blocked from continuing with the works on the basis that the subcontract was entered into in breach of the mother contract between Eutaw and the Uganda National Roads Authority and if allowed, Eutaw was not allowed to subcontract works beyond 30 percent of the work load and according to the illegal subcontract between Chongqing International Construction Corporation and Eutaw, the entire contract had been subcontracted.
As if that was not enough, a whistle blower provided information which was investigated and confirmed that Eutaw was a non- existent company with no known address. Faced with a serious embarrassment with a heavy financial loss, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) intervened and halted Chongqing International Construction Corporation from proceeding with the work which also saw the entry of the Attorney General who gave an opinion that the IGG did not know what she was doing. Sadly, he recommended that Chongqing International Construction Corporation be allowed to continue with the work in total disregard to the terms of the contract signed between Eutaw and UNRA.
One would have expected the Government to follow up the money but instead the road contract was re-tendered and won by Reynolds Construction Company at another Ugx.179 billion to complete the work and cover additional roads not originally included in the cancelled Eutaw contract. At the end of such scandals, it is the Uganda tax payer who loses; whether the money is picked from the consolidated fund or borrowed, it remains a debt for us to pay as well as our children.
Before long, we shall hear that the Government has discovered that Joint Stock Company Global Security has been found wanting and therefore the works have been given to SGS.
The writer, Roger Wadada Musaalo is a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician